Exploring Wholeness in more detail – to support our highest aspirations
Wholeness is the foundation of the co-intelligence worldview. It is a big subject – embracing many varieties, dimensions, and manifestations of wholeness, as well as many factors that contribute to or detract from it. Here you’ll find materials that open up that rich and complex realm and attempt to provide some order and context for it. I believe that most of our personal and social aspirations – such as health, justice, sustainability, joy, wisdom, community, peace, a sense of the sacred – are all grounded one way or another in wholeness. The more we understand it, the better we’ll be able to pursue and realize those goals.
Since the beginnings of the 1990s I’ve known that my inquiry into “co-intelligence” was fundamentally about how to apply wholeness to promote wholeness. So for more than two decades I’ve been exploring wholeness to understand it better.
Many of my models and essays on this subject are available on the Co-Intelligence Institute’s webpage on wholeness. Other articles, models and notes are tucked away in files.
I find that most people – if they think of wholeness at all – think of it as one thing. For example: Something is whole if it isn’t broken. Or wholeness has to do with health, or wholesomeness, or integrity. Or wholeness describes Spirit or the non-dual nature of reality that includes and/or transcends all the diverse phenomenon of existence.
My own fascination with wholeness comes from the fact that so much of what we want in our lives and in our visions of a “good society” – health, justice, sustainability, joy, wisdom, community, peace, a sense of the sacred – are grounded one way or another in wholeness. It seems to me that if we understood wholeness better we would more easily and wisely be able to co-create the good lives and good societies we dream of.
But the topic as a whole (so to speak) is elusive: there are so many varieties, dimensions, and manifestations of wholeness – and so many factors that contribute to or detract from wholeness – that embracing them all in any explicit and coherent way seems nearly impossible. I’ve depended primarily on my evolving intuition to sense the presence and nature of wholeness in situations, dynamics, approaches, ideas, proposals, and more. However, it is hard to communicate that intuitive sense to others.
Given how fundamental it is to the co-intelligence work and so much else, I decided two years ago to attempt a book or website devoted solely to exploring and articulating the full dimensions of wholeness. I don’t know if that book or website will ever be realized, but I’ve decided at this point to share highlights of my explorations for those interested.
As an introduction, you’ll find below the preamble to the Co-Intelligence Institute’s webpage on Wholeness. (That page also links to a half dozen articles on wholeness that are not included in this message.) Following that intro, you’ll find a list of wholeness-related factors that constituted an outline for the book I was planning to write.
Finally, if you’d like to explore a framework within which most of those factors fit together more or less coherently, I invite you to visit my “Dimensions of Wholeness” model. This features a graphic and an accompanying descriptive text. I am only including the link here, since the graphic is large for email and the model is complex enough that it may only interest a few readers.
I hope the material provided here will prove thought-provoking, inspiring, and useful in your own life and work.
Blessings on our Journey through wholeness into greater wholeness.
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In normal usage, the word “whole” means simply complete, entire, undivided, not ill or injured. Holistic science and philosophy and the study of systems have added new dimensions to our understandings of wholeness, understandings which are still developing.
In co-intelligence work, “wholeness” refers to the inclusive, ever-evolving coherence of life and its various parts and of the relationship dynamics between those parts. This coherence underlies familiar concepts like health, integrity, wholesomeness, holiness, and other holistic concepts. Wholeness, itself, has many dimensions and dynamics which we are exploring in our co-intelligence work.
That said, the fact is that wholeness is both central and not precisely defined. It is something to “get the feel of.” When we talk about “wholeness” on this site, we are often embracing many overlapping phenonena, among them these:
- Attending to the whole means attending to “the big picture” instead of engaging in narrow-minded glorification of limited information.
- In a common definition of co-intelligence — “Accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole” — the whole can include the whole group, community, or nation; all the parts of a system or all the adversaries in a conflict, in generative conversation with each other; and/or the larger wholeness or Spirit of Life as a source of wisdom.
- Wholeness includes long term perspectives and realities. Although immediate problems, realities and outcomes may be important, they are not the whole story,
- Taking wholeness seriously means looking beyond narrow self-interest to “the common good” — and even pursuing self-interest through pursuit of the common good.
- Concern for wholeness requires moving beyond shallow appearances and symptoms. It requires moving into fuller meanings, deeper causes, greater complexity, subtlety and ambiguity.
- The wholeness of things of course includes their parts. But when we’re considering living beings and living systems we must also address their overall health, responsiveness, development, special gifts, etc. — their unique aliveness — and also their context and history. We must especially transcend our focus on their utility to us.
- Wholeness almost always involves the healthy mutuality (synergy) of relationships, a dimension of life that can be neglected by an exclusive focus on the entities involved in those relationships. Whole-system dynamics and structures are often the dynamics and structures of relationships that characterize the whole.
- To attempt to understand the whole means to humbly recognize the fact that “there’s always more to it; to appreciate the limits and evolution of knowledge and certainty.
- Wholeness often refers to the unity of spirit — and commonality of story — that underlie the details of life. Unity and commonality are often overlooked when we focus too much on differences and separateness (although these, too, are part of wholeness!).
“Wholeness” is the concept that best embraces “new paradigm” efforts to create a more just, sustainable and wise society. As the essays on this webpage make abundantly clear, wholeness is far more than unity.
Co-intelligence is intelligence that arises out of wholeness and takes wholeness seriously. Co-intelligence can be considered the cognitive and responsive dimension of wholeness.
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A CATALOGUE OF WHOLENESS-RELATED FACTORS AND PHENOMENA
Individuality / Uniqueness
Soverignty / Rights
Both / And
Welcoming / Embracing / Invitation /
Tolerance / Acceptance
Curiosity / Sensing-into
Presence (1) (showing up; being included)
Respect / Valuing
Belonging / membership
Include and transcend
Relationship / Kinship
Stardust (the common source of all material reality)
Ethics / Morallity
Fairness / Equity / Peerness
Mutuality / Reciprocity
Feedback / Cybernetics
Complexity / Chaos / Multiple causation
Interbeing / Co-incarnation / Yin-yang
Cooperation / Power-with / Teamwork / Collaborative intelligence
Co-evolution / Dialectic
Conversation / Dialogue
Fit / Harmony
Action / Agency / Leadership
Role / Function
Purpose / Intention
Surrender / Prayer / Letting Go
Environment / Climate
Field (Morphogenic, Story)
Commons / Common ground
Reality / Conditions
Relevance / Relevation (quantum term meaning to elevate from the implicate order into explicate “reality” because of relevance to what is already going on)
Consensus / Confluence / Voice of the Whole
Healing / Reconciliation
Subsidiarity (functions carried out by the most local competent authority)
STATES OF WHOLENESS
Health / Resilience
Vitality / Aliveness / Exuberance
Elegance (right simplicity)
Implicit Wholeness (things are whole exactly as they are; everything fits)
Explicit Wholeness (achieved through fixing, healing, engagement, transcendence, etc.)
Integrity / Truth
Nature / the Tao
Emergence / Manifestation
Deep time (from the Big Bang into the distant future)
Possibility / Vision
(Include and transcend)(a dynamic of a healthy developmental process)
Intersubjectivity (the “reality”-generating dynamic of many interacting “separate” consciousnesses)
Presence (2) (aura; strength of personality) / Centeredness
Non-locality / Synchronicity
Communion / Love
Mysticism / “the Perennial Philosophy” (Aldous Huxley’s name for the mystical traditions of all major religions)
Fractals (patterns reappear at different levels of observation, such as branches of branches)
Holonics (every part is a whole; every whole is a part)
Holographics (each part contains the whole, or a part that contains the qualities or patterns of the whole)
Holergy (a part is greater than its role in any whole)
Membergy (the power possessed by a part due to its membership in a particular whole)
Microcosm / Sample
(Knowledge based on any of the preceding items)
Uncertainty / Ambiguity / Mystery
Humility / More-to-it-than-that
Comprehension / Depth / Insight
Myth / Symbol
Wisdom / Perspective / Big Picture
Map / Model / Chart
Holistic Design / Permaculture / Pattern languages
Spectra / Bell Curves
Silence / Spaciousness / Meditation
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This model linked here includes many of the factors in the catalogue above in a coherent whole. If this topic interests you, I would encourage you to explore it and comment on this blog post.
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